May 5, 2007 at 9:17 am (Favorite Media)


I’ve recently finished reading James Howard Kunstler’s book “The Long Emergency”. To put it mildly, it is an eye-opener. The premise is that the ‘age of oil’ is a blip on the radar screen of Mankind, and the fruits of the so-called “Industrial Revolution” are likely not to last. If it weren’t for the excellent references to facts and statistics he cites, it might be considered just another ‘doomsday book’. It is not. It is a thorough explanation of how we got where we are in our energy-dependent civilization, and where it’s likely to lead. He does not draw a pretty picture, especially of the future of suburbia. Indeed, he calls it “the greatest misallocation of resources in human history”.

To put it succinctly, we are running out of oil. In fact, oil production peaked years ago, and are on a downturn. W.W.II was fought on American oil. The Iraq war is being fought on Arabian oil. Automobiles are a passing fad, and suburbia will not be viable. There is nothing to replace oil, and he goes into great detail about why alternative fuels are a fantasy. In fact, horrifying as the prospect may be, nuclear energy may be the only reliable source of electricity to “keep the lights on”. But even there, he states that we would have to have an immediate crash program to build reactors to satisfy the demand ten years from now.

There is hope in the story. He sees the world turning back to its agrarian days, as the miracle of agribusiness crop production fed by oil-based fertilizers fails. People will live in closer communities just to share the burden of making enough food, and the US cities which survive will be more European, with farmland encircling the cities. Electric-powered rail will likely be a solution for our transportation needs, and the horse will again become a common feature of the landscape.

Whether or not you agree with his findings, it is a banquet of food for thought about the issues concerning our future. It will give you pause to consider every time you throw a light switch. Recommended reading…


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